Chickadees are often described as being the “feathered small boy of the woods,” and also of our bird feeder. Behind their unique, albeit simple calls, are complex creatures that are constantly on the move, much as small boys are around the household.
The first time you hear the call of the chickadee, the high piercing chick-a-Dee-Dee to which they derive their name from, you instantly associate it with that of backyard birds. The range of the Chickadee is from the southern parts of Canada into the northern, cooler areas of the United States. Those that live in the south are referred to as Carolina Chickadee, and those in the north as the boreal chickadee, with their cousins, the mountain Chickadee in the west. All three are fairly similar in size and stature to each other, and all three living similar lifestyles.
The Chickadee has to constantly keep searching for food to maintain its high energy consumption level. Their metabolism is comparatively high to that of other birds of similar size. Due to their small body size, they don’t have a lot of excess room to store food, and thus energy. So the waking hours of Chickadee are mostly spent paroling the landscape for bits of energy to consume. They burn energy almost as fast as they obtain it, leading to their hyper-intense lifestyle of food searching.
Just with a simple glance out into our backyards, or at our bird feeders, we can pick out the chickadees frolicking and bouncing among the branches in the trees. Happy and carefree they go along, serenading nearby listeners with their melodious chirping during mating season or during the warm spring and summer months. This activity is translated onto our feeder due to their unique eating habits. Unlike finches, grackles or starlings, they bounce in between branches and the feeder. They pick out what they need and then vacate their spot to a waiting bird. This is a backyard bird lovers dream due to the lack of mess and also less overcrowding on the feeders.
Chickadees nest in cavities, in deserted downy woodpecker holes, natural cracks and crevices in trees, in bird houses that aren’t occupied by house wrens, house sparrows or other birds. Being last in line for cavity nest sites, it hardly seems possible that chickadees can be among our most common woodland and feeder birds. I’d prove they are, if only they’d sit still and let us count them.
Like many birds around the house, Chickadees only use seed as a supplemental food to their diet. Their diet mainly consists of spiders and other small insects, which they find by flirting from tree to tree. During the winter months however, their dependance on seed increases due to the lack of insects during the cold weather. Therefore it becomes more important to the birds that we keep our feeders stocked with healthy, energy filled seeds.
During this time many birds are employing a technique called caching. This involves them storing seeds in places that they will be able to find when it begins to get colder. Caching helps birds survive during bad weather and when food sources are low. Let’s give the birds a helping hand by providing an easily accessible food source.
Here are some helpful tips to being the best backyard bird host that you can be:
- Feeding birds throughout the year by choosing healthy, nutritious foods such as suet, seeds, fruit, nuts and nectar to offer. These foods provide high amounts of fat and sugar to help birds have plenty of energy during migration.
- Keeping bird feeders and birdbaths clean and fresh. Feeders should be cleaned on a regular basis with warm water only. If a feeder has mold or is terribly dirty, it can be cleaned with a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water. Birdbaths provide a reliable source of water for drinking and bathing, which is especially important in cold weather in order to keep feathers in top condition. They should be heated to prevent the whole bath from freezing.
- Providing cover for the birds. Roosting boxes or natural plant covers can also aid birds seeking protection from cold weather. Shelter is also needed during the mating seasons to provide a safe home for unhatched eggs from natural predators.
- Sharing your love of birds with friends and family members to introduce them to the rewarding hobby, therefore raising awareness of birds in every season and encouraging more people to enjoy backyard birds and help them during the cold winter months.